Sean Stevens said he wasn’t fully sold on the idea of raising chickens at his Bowling Green home nestled in the midst of the Briarwood neighborhood.
But it seemed like a good diversion for his family as the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year and people were housebound.
He now has four chickens that produce about three eggs per day – and a new outlook: “It’s been really cool ... I’ve grown to love them,” he said. “They have become more like pets.”
The trend of people raising chickens in urban environments has been on the upswing for several years, and the COVID-19 pandemic drew even more people into the hobby nationally and locally.
But the increase in urban fowl likewise came with a surge in complaints.
Brent Childers is director of the city’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services – the department in charge of animal issues in the city.
He said the complaints – “about noise, smell and chickens running loose” – have surged in recent months.
“We were actually chasing chickens,” he said of the city’s animal control officers.
Municipalities across the country have recently passed new poultry laws because of similar issues.
The chicken issues led to Bowling Green forming a workgroup to look at possible changes to the city’s animal ordinance, and the changes formulated by the workgroup were formally approved at the May 4 city commission meeting.
The city ordinance previously only mandated that those who own poultry keep them on their property. The new law limits the number of chickens allowed per property to five, and bans all roosters or other crowing fowl.
“We wanted to still allow families to have chickens, and balance that with the demands of living in an urban environment,” Childers said, adding that the crowing of poultry was a common source of complaints.
While the animal ordinance revisions started with the chicken issues, “then we said, ‘what are the other things we need to look at,’ ” Childers said.
The result was an ordinance that streamlined some language and fixed other issues.
A prime example was that, according to the previous ordinance language, every time a dog barked in the city limits, it was a violation of the city ordinance.
“It was way too strict,” Childers said.
The new language clarifies that only excessive or consistent barking or other animal noises are prohibited.
“It allows us to assess the situation” and determine the root cause of the barking, Childers said.
Other changes included taking out animal cruelty language that was already covered by state law, as well as other cleanup language.